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Review: Sony Xperia Z3v for Verizon Wireless

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Oct 23, 2014, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless scored one of Sony's finest efforts in the Xperia Z3v. Sony's flagship Android smartphone generally impresses, despite a few flaws. Read Phone Scoop's in-depth review to find out if it is the phone for you.

Is It Your Type?

The Xperia Z3v is a fine effort from Sony. The device, based on the Z3, is one of the most powerful to skip across the Pacific to the U.S. The Xperia Z3v is perhaps best viewed as an accessory to Sony's PlayStation empire. If you're a hardcore gamer who's invested in Sony's ecosystem, the Z3v is a natural choice.


Sony first announced the Z3 in September in Berlin during the IFA trade show. Those of you who read my hands-on with the phone may remember my initial feelings about the phone. I heaped praise on the phone's design. I was especially pleased with the rounded corners and edges, which helped give the phone a smooth profile that felt great in the hand. Well, Verizon didn't share my enthusiasm for the design of the Z3 and apparently asked Sony to change it. This is a rotten shame.

The Z3 represents several years' worth of design evolution from Sony, including the Z1, Z1s, and Z2. Each relied on what Sony calls its Omnibalance Design language, which means glass panels on front and back, a distinct, round screen lock button on the side, and a minimalist look. Every device before the Z3 had rather sharp sides and angles that made them less comfortable to hold. The Z3 solved this in a great way. Verizon may have asked Sony to roll back the clock, as the Z3v ditches those smooth, rounded sides in favor of sharp, edgy sides that are unpleasant against the skin. Why Verizon and Sony would do such a thing, I'll never know or understand. It effectively maims the great leap in hand-feel Sony made with the global Z3. Sigh.

That said, the Z3v isn't ugly, nor is it dysfunctional. In fact, it looks rather good. I've always liked the dual glass panel arrangement of the Xperia Z series. The glass feels amazing under your thumbs. The Z3v also carries over the Z3's biggest advancement: slimmer bezels. One of the defining features of the Z series — for good or ill — was over-sized bezels that significantly increased the overall footprint of the phone. The Z3v dials the bezels way down to help reduce the phone's size. The pure black front and back panels are offset by chrome-colored inserts in the frame along the sides. (The Z3v is also available in white.) It's a classy phone, of that there's no doubt.

The Z3v is still rather large. It's bigger than the iPhone 6, Galaxy S5, and One (M8). I am just barely able to use it with one hand. My thumb reaches the upper corners, but I have to stretch a little. To be fair, the others have slightly smaller screens. The Z3v's measures 5.2 inches, while the others measure 4.7-, 5.1- and 5.0-inches, respectively, for the iPhone 6, GS5, and M8. The materials are and construction are top-notch, probably on par with HTC. The frame sandwiched between the glass panels extends a bit above both, forming a lip that I dislike. I understand it serves to protect the glass, but I'd rather have an entirely smooth device. The Z3v will fit into most pockets, but the size and weight will remind you that it's there.


The front is entirely absent of buttons or controls. Only the Verizon and Sony logos are visible when the screen is off. The device uses on-screen controls to manage the Android operating system.

Most of the Z3v's ports and slots are hidden from view thanks to hatches. The USB port and memory card slot are both on the left edge of the phone, though they're invisible because the hatches blend in so well. Each hatch has a notch for your thumbnail and is easy enough to pry open. I dislike hatches over USB ports because it means you have to interact with them every time you charge your phone. There's a single hatch on the right side covering the SIM card slot. The stereo headphone jack on top doesn't need a hatch. Why all the hatches? Well, the Z3v is waterproof, but only if the hatches are sealed up tight.

As far as buttons go, the volume toggle, screen lock button, and camera button are all placed on the right edge of the phone. Sony has long used an over-sized, round button for the screen lock. It's chrome colored and has a great profile; it's incredibly easy to find and use. The volume toggle is below it. It's a thin dash that's too short. Travel and feedback are pretty bad. The two-stage camera button, conversely, offers excellent travel and feedback. Both stages are clearly defined, making it a nice option to use when taking photos.

There's no accessing the Z3v's battery. The glass panel that forms the rear surface cannot be pried from the frame. The Z3v does offer one feature the Z3 doesn't: wireless charging. It supports the Qi standard, so it'll charge when placed on any Qi charging pad.

In sum, the Z3v is a (mostly) great piece of hardware, but I wish Verizon was offering the better Z3 design.

About the author, Eric M. Zeman:

Eric has been covering the mobile telecommunications industry for 17 years at various print and online publications. He studied at Rutgers Newark and University of Kentucky, and has a degree in writing. He likes playing guitar, attending concerts, listening to music, and driving sports cars.

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Oct 23, 2014, 4:16 PM

Now where's the Verizon Z3 Compact?!?!

This phone is far too big, as is every other phone on Verizon, I really wish they'd release the Z3 Compact so there would be a single high-end, compact handset available from Verizon!!!
I second the motion.

Oct 23, 2014, 11:46 PM

Good review but a few inaccuracies..

I have the phone and just wanted to clarify a couple of things mentioned in the article.

The author says that the lock screen cannot be customized. You have to first enable lock screen widgets from the Security menu. Then you can add several screens of widgets as well as "owner info" on the lock screen.

For Hi Res audio, "Hi Res Audio over USB" is just an option if you happen to have a DAC amplifier. I'm pretty sure the Z2 had that option as well. To listen to Hi Res audio, you only need the audio file and a pair of Hi Res headphones.

The description for Multi Camera is also inaccurate. It allows you to pair multiple phones together to get a split-screen view of all the other cameras together on a single screen.

Sorry to be n...

Oct 23, 2014, 9:21 AM

I love the interface

Somehow it appeals to me. Especially the camera app, but everything else is nice as well. I also very much like the fonts they use. Nice & sharp! I wish Google adopts a similar interface for Android stock.
Does it support VOLTE?
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